Over the last few weeks, I've read a number of articles and participated in a few debates about different topics ranging from issues like gun control to the social commentary of modern comic book heroes with a bunch in between. But while the topics varied widely, there was one common element throughout all of them: an opposition mindset. What I mean by this is that in the ideas that were expressed in the articles I read or through the points someone was trying to make, they were either directly stated or implied to be were in complete opposition to some other idea being presented. These ideas were mutually exclusive to whatever idea they were intending to rebut or counter.
For example, I was reading an article about how we should stop trying to tell women how not to get raped and instead focus on telling men not to rape women. Another article had a mom admonishing the dad of the daughter her son was dating for "threatening" (I use this in quotes since assessing a threat is widely subjective) her son should he hurt his daughter, stating instead of "threatening", the dad should raise a daughter that knows how to take care of herself.
More general examples of this culture of opposition is "Science vs Religion", "Right vs Left", "Rich vs Poor", and "Whites vs Minorities" to name a few. These type of opposition memes are quite common in today's culture. Just look at the "news" channels and blogs these days. Either explicit or implicit, they promote the construct of diametrically opposed ideas. And I'm definitely not the first person to notice this as many have lamented how polarized our nation has become. And how has it become like that? Through a culture of opposition.
But does it have to be that way? Let's take the articles I mentioned earlier. In the rape article, while no one will be opposed to the idea of coaching men not to rape, why shouldn't we continue to teach women how to proactively protect themselves from rape? Why can't both happen? It's not about blame. It's about both parties doing what they can to prevent a horrific event.
To go off on a slight tangent, I call this the pedestrian paradigm. When it comes to traffic law, the pedestrian has the right of way in all but the most extreme circumstances. Thus, when a pedestrian walks onto a contested road, any intersecting motor vehicles must stop and let them by because, obviously, if the motor vehicle didn't have to stop, they'd probably kill the pedestrian. A funny thing can happen because of this though. Knowing that the cars are required to stop, some pedestrian deliberately walk out in front of a moving vehicle, fully expecting the car to stop for them. And while this happens most of the time, their right of way is not really protecting them from getting run over. What if someone isn't paying attention or their brakes give out? The pedestrian still gets hit despite it being wrong for the car to do so. So while the pedestrian has a lawful right to walk out in front of a car, they're not actually doing everything they can to prevent getting run over by the cars that aren't following the law. So yeah, while the car was wrong to run them over, they're still ran over. Yes it's possible for even a cautious pedestrian who did everything they could (aside from just not walking at all) to still get ran over, but that doesn't mean being cautious is worthless.
Anyway, back on track. In the article about the mom wanting dads to raise their daughters right instead of "threatening" her son, I ask why can't there be both? Why is there an assumption that a dad level setting with his daughter's date hasn't also taught his daughter how to protect herself?
The answer: a culture of opposition. I'll elaborate on the mom article a little. The mom, being a little ruffled that her son's date's dad "threatened" her son, runs to the conclusion that the dad must think her son to be some hormone controlled degenerate that hasn't been told any better. But, that's not true! She raised her son right! So it must be the dad's daughter that doesn't know any better! Do you see the opposition manifest itself in that thought process? The thought that perhaps the dad knows both kids could get into trouble nor the thought that the dad knows how boys can be even when they have a proper upbringing doesn't seem to cross this mom's mind. Instead, polarizing opposition immediately springs up.
Let's look at another common example: Science vs Religion. How many times have you heard that you either believe in science or religion? There seems to be this idea that the two are diametrically opposed. This idea has sprung up because people, usually Christians or conservatives, have challenged some of the scientific "facts" that secular folk have taken for gospel. This obviously means these people are "anti-science" even though the challenge is against the claims and not the science itself. Though amusingly, the people that so viciously support these claims are just as, if not more, religious in their belief and intent than the Christians they're deriding. But again, does it really have to be that way? No! Science is not some anti religion ideology. It's simply an objective method for determining truth and fact by what we can observe. In fact, many Christians use science on a daily basis and many early scientists were Christian! So yes, religion and science can coexist, but the culture of opposition has sprung up to put Christians at odds with modern science, but that really isn't the case.
Or how about our political landscape? Left wing and Right wing. In many cases, one side cannot acknowledge a sound idea by the other side. You have sites dedicated to opposing everything the other side says or does. Some might read this and believe I'm a centrist, but that isn't true. I definitely believe the Right has far more correct than the Left. But this doesn't mean I oppose leftist ideas simply because they sprang from the minds of leftists. If the idea has merit, it's worth acknowledging and looking into. For example, I support capitalism, the free markets, and the reduction of regulations to make it easier for people to go into business. Yet, I don't support zero government regulation or intervention. I feel the government's role in the economy is to keep it as free and fair as possible by preventing companies from intentionally corrupting or rigging the system. If you had to sum it up, I'd say my approach is mostly right wing with enough government such that businesses have an entity to be accountable to if they try to cheat the system. Which is how I think it should be. But instead, because we live in a culture of opposition, we're left with hyper partisanship (which itself is used to discredit valid opposition to certain ideas) which would lead one to believe that all regulation is bad or that the other side fully advocates complete deregulation. Politically, a good solution will not be completely one or the other, but our culture of opposition had made it so acknowledging merit of the "other side" is considered traitorous.
And this is a big problem. A culture of opposition where solutions and ideas are presented in binary pairs is, for starters, a very immature way to look at things. "If it's not this, then it's this" or "Not that, instead this" removes a fundamental piece of understand from the equation: That it's possible to have simultaneous facets and thoughts that may compete with each other. It takes away the possibility that someone can be both, or all, of something in varying degrees. It reduces the complexity of humanity into oversimplified, never ending conflict. Anyone take a guess where I think such a culture comes from? That's right: Satan. A culture where we dehumanize those we disagree with to an opposition talking point fits right into his plan because this kind of culture is stagnant and not going anywhere as it fights amongst itself like children. This is exactly what he wants.
But, let's get one thing straight, this doesn't mean opposition in and of itself is necessarily. We are told to resist the Devil and oppose evil. And we can still oppose bad ideas or ideas we don't agree with. But what we shouldn't do is treat the competing idea as a singular, mutually exclusive point.
That's when it becomes a problem. When the simplistic opposition described above is ingrained in our culture to the point where that's all we do when presented with confrontation. You could even say this culture of opposition is a distraction against the forces we should be opposing: Satan and his evil.
What we need to do is move in to a culture of honor and unity. Of true respect despite disagreement. Of unity despite diversity in background, ethnic culture, and opinion. A culture of unity doesn't mean there will never be disagreements. It means that those disagreements are handled with respect and honor. It's a culture that honors the person you may not completely know and then understand there's more to them than the opinion they expressed that you disagree with. Easier said than done though, right? Yes. I often find myself caught in the culture of opposition's grasp, but I'm thankful I have a God to pull me out of it when I take the time to listen to Him.
And to me, the best way to do this is to simply serve God. His honor is boundless. He knows each and every one of us. All of our facets. All the knobs and dials that go into being us. Servitude to Him can bring about the humility and love it takes to see everyone as the complex and awesome beings of light God has made us. Turning to Him can turn our culture from one of opposition to one of unity and honor.
As long as we continue to allow ourselves to be mired in our culture of opposition, we'll always have the problems we're experiencing now. Let's turn toward unity and honor. Let's turn toward God.